Although this picture is a cartoon, this article applies to a dangerous condition inside the bodies of both men and women… and this discussion also applies even if you don’t have any digestive problems at all.
Did you know that the vast majority of people in this day and age are at risk for something called “increased intestinal permeability” A.K.A. leaky gut?
It’s true — as much as 60 Million people in some “westernized” countries such as the US and Canada are now struggling with digestive problems like IBS, Crohn’s, and Ulcerative Colitis.
The first thing that most people think of is that leaky gut is only a problem for people with digestive disease…
However, what most people don’t realize is that leaky gut is not only a stomach issue, but is also a dangerous risk factor to your health.
It can masquerade as fatigue, anxiety, depression, digestive symptoms, weight problems, and other serious conditions…
It’s been found in association with chronic diseases, including asthma, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel, kidney disease, psoriasis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and heart failure…
And even with all the latest technology and over 10,000+ research papers on it, this hidden epidemic is still often referred to as the “Disease Your Doctor Can’t Diagnose…”
If you or loved ones are struggling with chronic illness, like my family and I did, this might be the most important thing you’ll ever read.
What Is Leaky Gut?
What it does to you is this: it allows TOXIC food particles, environmental chemicals, and bacterial waste to leak through your digestive tract and into your body – once inside, these foreign particles travel to different areas of your body and trigger an immune response, promoting inflammation and jump-starting the development of chronic disease.
Instead of keeping the bad stuff out, the delicate lining of your intestine is letting all the bad stuff in, and your body is breaking down from the inside out. The real name of this hidden epidemic is: Increased Intestinal Permeability, or “Leaky Gut.”
So yes, in some REALLY general ways you can think about it like your poop is leaking into your body…
But that’s not the scariest thing about it.
Untreated Leaky Gut Is Making People Sick
Here’s a short list of conditions associated with “Leaky Gut:”
- Type 1 diabetes
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
In fact, now you can put just about any condition into Google along with “Intestinal Permeability” and find hours of research papers associating the two.
Here’s a few examples for those of you who are nerds like me (the link will open a Google search in a new window):
- “Intestinal Permeability and Heart Disease”
- “Intestinal Permeability and Autoimmune Disease”
- “Intestinal Permeability and Irritable Bowel Syndrome”
- “Intestinal Permeability and Inflammatory Bowel Disease”
- “Intestinal Permeability and Acne”
Then there’s Dr. Alessio Fasano’s groundbreaking “Leaky Gut Theory of Autoimmunity” – which suggests that the 100+ Autoimmune Diseases begin with leaky gut. With over 10,000+ published research papers on intestinal permeability, you’d think modern medicine would be talking about it more, but they’re not. If you ask the average doctor, very few have heard about it and those that have still think it’s “quackery.”
Is Leaky Gut Making You Sick?
Leaky gut is a tricky condition. It can show up in every human being in a different way…
It’s not obvious. In fact, only 70% of people with leaky gut have digestive problems. You can even find it in people that “look” healthy.
To put it simply: if you’re struggling with chronic health complaints, you’re at risk for leaky gut.
As you can see in the research above, gut health is important for just about every system in the body, and in turn it can create symptoms and problems in just about every system in the body. So, how do you know if you have it?
There are two common ways to test for Leaky Gut:
- The Lactulose-mannitol intestinal permeability test
- Cyrex Labs “Array #2”
Both tests have their benefits. For example, the Lactulose-mannitol test is commonly used as the gold standard in research settings. The Cyrex panel is possibly a better option to measure the immune response from leaky gut, but both of these tests have inherent unreliability.
It’s like Chris Kresser always says, “Will the test result change the outcome of the treatment?”
In the case of testing for leaky gut, not necessarily. Personally, I think you can save money by instead focusing on your risk factors for leaky gut, which is why we put together a leaky gut risk analysis in this free leaky gut quiz.
Of course, an interactive quiz like this can’t diagnose anything, but it can help you screen for the most important leaky gut risk factors in your life. Education is the best prevention and with this quiz, instead of knowing whether or not you have leaky gut, knowing WHAT risk factors are damaging your gut can help you take the next steps to start fixing it.
How to Stop Your Guts From Leaking
There are three really common leaky gut triggers I’ve seen over the years, when people are still struggling with chronic health problems. The first step in preventing your gut from leaking is to start turning off some of these common triggers.
I’m talking to those “tough cases,” like me, struggling with chronic conditions like: autoimmunity, asthma, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel, kidney disease, psoriasis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and heart failure…
If that’s you, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with leaky gut and these three mistakes could be making things worse for you.
Leaky Gut Trigger 1: Eating Holes in Your Gut
If you have leaky gut and you’re still struggling with chronic illness, the 80/20 rule doesn’t fly. Eat gluten on the weekends? Stop it. Occasional beer on a hot day? Stop it. The research is very clear that gluten contributes to leaky gut and when it comes to dealing with serious health problems, there’s no room for a “Cheat Day.”
I get it. I understand it has its place… for healthy people. One day you too might be able to live a happy healthy life with 80/20 healthy eating. But not today.
With leaky gut, there are undigested food particles sneaking right into your bloodstream, which causes the immune system to attack them as foreign invaders. That starts a cascade of inflammation. The autoimmune protocol removes many of the most problematic foods for people with leaky gut, things like eggs, tomatoes & eggplants, peppers including bell peppers and hot peppers, spices such as curries, paprika, and chili powder, and nuts and seeds.
For the majority of us, if we just remove certain classes of foods that are harder to digest, we can begin to reverse leaky gut and hopefully get some relief in the process.
Leaky Gut Trigger 2: Poking Holes in Your Gut with Pills
Who hasn’t reached for an Advil or Motrin in times of pain? I used to get 2-3 headaches a week and carried them around in my wallet. Then, there’s all those aches and pains that follow you home from sports and the gym – those mornings when you wake up and your body is locked up and screaming at you.
The inconvenient truth is: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) cause your gut to leak.
The worst part is MANY doctors prescribe these meds and NEVER tell people what it’s doing to their gut.
If you take NSAIDS, especially the stronger kind that are used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, you’ll be putting your gut barrier at risk. Immediately talk with your primary care doctor to explore other solutions.
Leaky Gut Trigger 3: Cortisol Rips Your Gut Apart
If we discovered that sleeping more and reducing our stress would make us live forever, I think we’d all still die. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing from Robb and everyone else telling you that you need to get 8 hours of sleep and take a breath, so let’s not beat a dead horse. But here’s the problem: not many people ACTUALLY do it. I’ve struggled with it too and it’s still a focus of mine.
But when you’re sick, it’s the same as the 80/20 diet rule… there’s no room for stress and sleep deprivation if you want to keep your poop where it belongs.
Studies like this are very clear that stress wrecks your gut and makes it leaky. You WILL NOT heal your gut if it’s experiencing chronic stress. Think about it like having a broken bone… we put it in a cast for a reason, so it stays protected and can heal.
But here’s the rub: sometimes stress isn’t what you think. Sure, stress can be emotional, like a crappy job or a bad relationship. But it can also be physical stress, like overtraining. Working out too hard can be extremely stressful on your body if you’re struggling with chronic illness.
If you’re still sick and training for that half marathon, stop for a while.
There’s another hidden stressor we’ve seen in about 80% of our consulting clients: gut infections. Those parasite and bacterial infections are a constant stressor on your body, sometimes just as powerful as guzzling gluten flavored shakes every day.
So, if you’re still sick and haven’t had a stool test yet, do it. I know, pooping in a plastic tube doesn’t sound like a party, but trust me it’s way better than letting a nasty infection live on in your body.
How to Fix Leaky Gut
Rome wasn’t built in a day… and it wasn’t destroyed in a day either.
Your gut isn’t going to heal in a day. If you’re already on a ‘real food diet,’ avoiding NSAIDs, and reducing your stress… but still suspect your poop isn’t staying where it belongs, there’s more work to do.
Like I said, many of us are “tough cases” and we need more than just a healthy diet to heal. Complex problems rarely ever have simple answers. But as humans we like simple ideas, single causes, magic pills and smoking guns. When it comes to leaky gut, there are at least 19 common triggers in the research that can be contributing to your problems.
We cover these triggers and how to fix leaky gut in a free webcast about how to solve leaky gut and reverse chronic illness.
If you need more help healing your gut, start by finding out if you might have it by taking this simple quiz: https://healthygut.com/assessments/leaky-gut/
Hope to see you there,
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